Justin Bilton says he and his 70-year-old father are lucky to be alive after incredible cellphone footage showed the terrifying moments they became trapped in a raging Montana forest Fire.
Bilton and his father say they were backpacking through Glacier National Park, when a lightening strike ignited a small fire near their camp. As the fire began to explode around them, they decided it was time to bug out, and hopped into their rental car, trying to escape the 3,500-acre Howe Ridge Fire along Lake McDonald in Wyoming.
Writing on Facebook, Bilton said they decided to hike back to their car where they parked it at the end of a road.
"We had just driven this road (safely) 3 hours before to get in and it was our only way out, apart from trying to stay ahead of the fire on foot. After we were stopped by the downed tree, we reversed back through all of this and were rescued by two park employees on a boat. They saved our lives," Bilton wrote.
The video shows the pair driving through the forest, seeing small hotspots of flames at first, until suddenly they become surrounded by intense flames.
"Oh my God. Oh Jesus - God help us," Justin can be heard saying in the video.
Bits of ash, trees and burning timber begin hitting the front of their vehicle and windshield as Justin worries outloud to his father that their vehicle might explode.
"Dad, what happens if a tree falls on us?" Justin said.
The video stops as they encounter a tree that's fallen across their path as Justin's father can be heard talking about getting out of the vehicle.
"When my dad decided he was going to get out to move the burning tree I was most scared because I didn't think I could stop the stubborn old man! He's def cool under pressure. We were camped down a trail that continued from the end of a dead end road and the fire was between us and the only way out. Had to reverse all the way back through all that to get back to the trailhead and down to the lake. The car burned shortly after we abandoned it and got rescued by a boat that just happened to be there."
The two ended up backing out the way they came, emerging in a clearing. Justin and his father abandoned the vehicle, making their way to Lake McDonald where a ranger passing by in a boat picked them up and brought them to safety.
Bilton says they watched as their rental car was devoured by the flames.
Hundreds of people were evacuated from the park after the Howe Ridge Fire destroyed at least nine structures and burned 4,100 acres.